|Juan Nicasio isn't showing signs of fading.|
It's hard to jump on board. This team has been a tease the past few seasons, starting off well in April, only to fade in May, then fall off a cliff in June and July. Getting excited about them is like pushing on a fresh bruise to Rockies fans.
The flaws are easy to point out on paper. The Rockies have three guys in the starting rotation that really shouldn't be there. Jordan Lyles was a guy the Houston Astros gave up on. The same Houston Astros who lost 111 games a year ago. Scouting reports suggest he is a fringe big leaguer. Franklin Morales was a starter who converted to the bullpen, and is now trying his hand as a starter again. Juan Nicasio throws a four-seemed fastball, and literally almost nothing else.
The bullpen is armed with a 41-year-old closer and a guy who was loading refrigerators into trucks at Lowe's last summer. One of their most effective relievers in the early-going hadn't pitched above Double-A before Opening Day. He was taken in the Rule-5 draft, which is usually full of guys who don't belong on a big league roster. They are available in the draft for a reason. Their best reliever from a year ago can't get anyone out and can't find the strike zone.
On paper, this team should be struggling. The Rockies should have to be producing Taco Bell specials every night just to have a chance. Instead, this team is winning. They are playing good baseball and finding ways to win the games that they should win.
One night after a heartbreaker in Phoenix that easily could have been a reality check for the Rockies, with Nicasio on the mound on Thursday, the Rockies were poised to watch the clock strike midnight on their early season performance.
Instead, Nicasio defied the odds again. Backed by a diving catch from Troy Tulowitzki that turned into a double play in the 1st inning, Nicasio settled in and pitched what was perhaps the most dominant outing of his career since his Major League debut back in May of 2011. He went seven shutout innings, giving up just three hits. He walked one and struck out two. He lowered his ERA to 4.19, a very respectable mark for a fifth starter at Coors Field.
The Rockies are getting phenomenal performances from their fringe pitchers. Frankly, they are getting more than they ever could have expected from those three pitchers. The confidence that comes with knowing that the Rockies have a chance to win every single night seems to have helped the Rockies play with a certain level of relaxation.
On the other side, the Rockies offense is certainly not struggling. Led by Troy Tulowitzki, who is in one of his streaks where he seems to crush every pitch that comes his way, the Rockies don't have a hole in their lineup. When Tulo is in the middle of one of these types of hot streaks, there is no question that he is one of the best three players in the game. Very few players in baseball have the ability to lift the weight of their entire team on their shoulders and win baseball games. Tulowitzki has that ability.
Somewhat quietly, Nolan Arenado is putting together an All-Star season, not just at the plate, but in the field as well. The kid is living up to the hype that came with him when he was a top prospect. He makes highlight reel plays at third base every single night, and it might be time to say that his bat has officially arrived. His 1-for-3 performance put his hitting streak at 21 games, a longer streak than Todd Helton ever had in a Rockies uniform.
Arenado's bat, coupled with the addition of Justin Morneau, has made an already potent Rockies lineup one of the best in the league. There isn't a pitcher in baseball who would be excited to face the Rockies. All of this is happening with Carlos Gonzalez's batting average hovering in the .240's.
This is a Rockies team that is defying the odds. They aren't supposed to be this good. Their holes have turned into strengths. Even the parts of this team that are struggling haven't hurt the team enough to de-rail a great start to the season.
For the Rockies, they can't let up. They must continue to play with the pedal on the metal. If they stop and take a breath, the holes could be exposed and they could fulfill the predictions of most baseball experts.
Until that happens, Rockies fans should enjoy the ride.
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